JUNEAUMay 30 in the United States
Today the weather is scheduled to be 3 degrees so lots of layers for our Whales, Mendenhall Glacier and Rainforest Trail day. Whilst waiting for our trip we chatted to Cheryl and Ted from Texas, then were loaded onto our bus and met Tayler from Gastineau Guiding, our guide for the day. We travelled out of town along a very scenic route until we reached the marina which was surrounded by snow capped mountains. We boarded our vessel which was specially designed for whale watching and were introduced to Captain Lee who put his 'foot on the gas' to whizz us out to a quiet area to try to spot some humpbacks. Meanwhile Tayler talked about the migration cycle of the whales and how they are up in Alaska from about early May until September to feed up on the plentiful supply of krill and large plankton. In the autumn they head south for the warmer waters of Hawaii for mating and carving but there is no food supply there so when the whales return the following autumn, they are very hungry after their 3000 mile swim! We spotted at least 6 whales, we saw their spouts, hump backs and tails but unfortunately no breaching. We also saw some seals. It was a really sunny day with blue sky and the scenery was fabulous and apparently we were very lucky to have such great weather in Alaska, there are only 44 clear days here a year.
We returned to the coach for a quick snack and drink and were then off for a rainforest walk and viewing of the Mendenhall Glacier. Tayler explained that the glacier is a river of ice, always moving and flowing downhill. However due to climate change the glacier is retreating at an ever increasing rate. The forest trail we walked on was once part of the glacier but is now a 'new' forest, only about 100 years old closer to the glacier lake. When the glacier retreats the first thing to grow is moss, then alder, followed by spruce then western hemlock (MASH). We arrived at the glacier lake and saw several icebergs floating on it, some tinged blue. The Mendenhall Glacier is 13 miles long but only 3 miles are visible. We started to wander back and saw a porcupine. Tayler told us about a platform that overlooked the lake which was used for people to observe the bears coming to the water to eat salmon. It had been discovered that the more aggressive male bears didn't like to be around people but the female bears seemed to realise the people were behind a wire fence (in a cage! in fact it is just a waist level fence) so they are happy to come and feed and bring their young and they don't feel threatened or attack. Just as I was discussing with a fellow guest whether or not the little package on the floor was bear poo, a mum and 2 juveniles turned up and happily wandered around and ignored us all - fantastic to be so close to wild life. Well whales, bears, great weather and very knowledgeable guide make this a fantastic trip!
When we made it back into Juneau we headed up to Mount Robson on the tram with Cheryl and Ted. We grabbed a coffee then set off on one of the short trails. There were fabulous views down into the inlet, ships and surrounded by snow capped mountains and with bald eagles soured around in the sky above. After the walk we went to the theatre, learned some Tlingit words and saw an interesting film about the Tlingit (native people).
We descended into Juneau and did a little retail therapy before returning to the ship. Juneau is the capital of Alaska but the road that runs 50 miles ends in a dead end sign at both ends so it is isolated from the rest of Alaska.Read more